EXCLUSIVE: Deputies awarded medals for courage following Oct. shootout with schizophrenic gunman

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Deputy Michael Sudler and Nicholas Carmack didn’t think their day at work on Oct. 12 would end facing down the barrel of an AR-15, but it did.

Sudler was just two months out of training.  He spent the previous seven years working for Publix.  

“The second I opened my car door I heard gunshots,” Sudler said.  

Sudler was the second deputy on scene. Carmack, also a K-9 officer, was first. Body camera video shows Carmack loading his AR-15 then begin walking down the middle of Gulf Highlands Drive. At that point, Carmack rounds a corner and comes under fire.

“There was really no coverage,” Carmack said.  “After we exchanged rounds right in the street it looks like his gun malfunctioned. He was messing with his gun running up the driveway. I basically pursued him up the grass and followed him up into the driveway.”

The entrance to Gulf Highlands Elementary school was a couple hundred feet from where Brian Disario, 30, just killed David James Armstrong. Sheriff Chris Nocco said Disario was mentally disturbed and killed Armstrong because he thought he was hitting on his imaginary girlfriend. Deputies didn’t know that information at the time, but felt Disario wasn’t going to give up.

“I seen the gun, but I seen his face like when he looked at us you could see on his face it wasn’t going to end well,” Carmack said. “You could tell he was going on a rampage it was going to go south from there.”

We were with frantic parents waiting for the lockdown at their elementary school to be lifted. Parents knew there was an active shooter and that he was in the neighborhood extremely close to their school.

But, other than that they had little information. The deputies said the tragic school shooting in South Florida that claimed 17 lives is a reminder of why they joined the sheriff’s office.

“It’s not lost on me what could have happened that day,” Sudler said. “I think situations like that do more to highlight what the community does afterwards, the response to that. The community getting together the students of the school writing thank you notes that’s where people need to step up. What happened in south Florida is a tragedy. I hope that community can be just as strong and they can come through that.”

Both deputies said they aren’t heroes but are appreciative that their bravery and courage under fire was recognized with the Meritorious Service Medal for Courage.

“Nick and I were the two who showed up first. I think any other deputy with this sheriff’s office or any law enforcement agency in the state they would’ve done the same thing,” Sudler said. 

Carmack said he can’t watch the video.  But, is grateful his actions saved a lot of lives.

“He’s actively killing people at the time, we have to do, you can’t there’s no hesitation you gotta do your job,” Carmack said.  “We are here to protective everybody.”

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